What figure of speech is in "Macbeth" II.1: "a heavy summons drowsiness lies like lead upon me,/and yet i would not sleep"?

Expert Answers
linda-allen eNotes educator| Certified Educator

You have two different comparisons at work in this line. First, drowsiness is called a "heavy summons." That figure of speech is a metaphor. The Guide to Literary Terms defines metaphor as:

a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to a person, idea, or object to which it is not literally applicable.

The other comparison also involves drowsiness, which "lies like lead upon me." This kind of comparison is a simile, and The Guide to Literary Terms gives it this definition:

a figure of speech in which two things, essentially different but thought to be alike in one or more respects, are compared using “like,” “as,” “as if,” or “such” for the purpose of explanation, allusion, or ornament.

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droxonian eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A figure of speech is, essentially, an example of figurative language, a type of imagery, which describes one thing by comparing it to something else. There are two types of figurative language involved in this quotation: a metaphor and a simile.

A metaphor is a figure of speech in which the speaker says that one thing actually is something else. This is figuratively true, rather than literally. So, here, drowsiness is "a heavy summons." Macbeth is saying that drowsiness is making him feel extremely heavy, and is seemingly "summoning" him to sleep.

The simile in this quotation helps legitimize Macbeth's claim here, as he describes the summons as lying "like lead upon me." This is a simile because one thing is said to be like another. In this case, the summons feels as heavy as lead.

slauritzen | Student
It is a simile since it uses like or as. Sleeplessness is a theme throughout the play. Banquo says this when he and his son Fleance are on their way to bed. He is saying that he feels tired, but he doesn't feel like he should/could sleep because he has a bad feeling. Immediately after this foreshadowing, Macbeth enters and, for the audience at least, verifies Banquo's concerns.